Success Story Interview - Daniel O'Shea

An Interview with Daniel O'Shea (luctari on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Stacia Decker of Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency.


QT: How long have you been writing?
Daniel O'Shea:
I’ve written all my life, and have worked as commercial freelance writer for better than 20 years. Mostly, I’ve worked with professional and financial services firms. I used to do a lot of work on political campaigns until it got to wear I couldn’t take long enough showers after.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Daniel O'Shea:
Back in my toying-at-it days, I probably wrote 30K words over several years, hardly any of which are still in the book. When I got serious about it, I wrote the draft in about four months.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Daniel O'Shea:
Quitting writing was never an option – that’s how I earn a living. But I struggled with fiction writing for a long time. I really just toyed at it. In the back of my mind, the idea of getting a novel published felt a little like thinking I was going to play third for the Cubs – like one of those childish things you’re supposed to put aside.
QT: Is this your first book?
Daniel O'Shea:
First fiction book, yes. As a freelancer, I’ve written a couple business-type books.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Daniel O'Shea:
I was a liberal arts slut in college. I majored in English Comp for a while, along with history and philosophy. And the freelancing has been good training.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Daniel O'Shea:
My day job is pretty demanding, so it can be hard, but I’ve made a rule for myself to do 500 words a day. It ain’t ever in the morning – I’ve got to be on the train at 6:30 as it is. Might be at lunch, might be on the train at night, but most days I get the 500 words in.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Daniel O'Shea:
I did one major re-write to cut the thing down. Mostly I edit as I go along.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Daniel O'Shea:
I had a couple.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Daniel O'Shea:
Completely from the hip. For me the trick is to develop characters that I’m connected to, to put them in a situation I like, and then to just turn them loose. I just kind of follow them around my head and take notes.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Daniel O'Shea:
I sent my first query out on April 15 – tax day. I got the offer on May 12 and signed on May 19.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Daniel O'Shea:
I sent out 96 queries. I felt the book was the best I could do, at least at this point. I wanted to find out if I could get an agent or not. So I carpet bombed the list pretty good. I had several partial and full requests – in fact, I’m still getting some responses in.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Daniel O'Shea:
To be frank, if they showed up on the mystery/thriller/crime search, I’d query them. As I got requests for partials or fulls, then I’d do more research on the agent.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Daniel O'Shea:
Just made sure I got the name and address right.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Daniel O'Shea:
I don’t think I know anything special. Send samples – unless the agent’s site absolutely prohibited it, I always sent 20 pages or so. Let’s face it, the query is just a resume, and they ain’t gonna rep a resume. In the end, you have to write a good book.

Query Letter:

Unto Caesar is a 98K mystery/thriller that will appeal both to readers of John Sandford’s Prey series and Michael Connelly’s Hieronymus Bosch books, as well as to those who prefer the conspiracy angles and tactical machinations of the Stephen Hunter’s Swagger novels.

For 20 years, Ishmael Leviticus Fisher killed for his country. Now he kills for his God. But his bullets have torn through more than his victims -- they’ve shredded a decades-old web of corpses and cover-ups starting with Chicago’s Red Squad and the Fred Hampton murder in 1971 and ending in the Oval Office. While Colonel Tecumseh Weaver and his ruthless black-ops team scramble to stuff Fisher in a body bag before he can expose his former masters’ secrets, Chicago Detective Jack Lynch wonders why leads in the killings of Catholics leaving confession point to politics as much as to religion, and why he’s closer to solving his father’s 30-year-old murder than he is to catching the sniper stalking Chicago’s churches. Lynch teams up with his lover, Chicago Tribune reporter Liz Johnson, and a rogue intelligence agent who can no longer stomach hiding the innocent dead behind his country’s flag to see if he can make the powerful pay for their sins before he pays the ultimate price for his own.

I have been a professional writer for more than 25 years. I'm new to the fiction market, but as a commercial freelancer, I've been paid more than $2 million by companies like American Express, Arthur Andersen and Sears, as well as a number of political candidates, to write everything from books to speeches to ads to web copy to collateral. I understand the editorial give-and-take necessary to produce a marketable product.

Thank you for you interest. A short sample follows. I hope to share more of my work with you soon.